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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Festivals of Tamil Nadu - Pongal

Pongal is traditional Indian harvest festival and is also known as Sankaranthi.It originated in South India as a community festival in celebration of a bountiful harvest. In modern Singapore this festival is celebrated as the commencementof the auspicious month of Thai.

Pongal is a festival when God is praised with simple faith and sincerity. Old vices are washed out and all that is good is welcomed in the New Year.

Pongal festivities go on for 4 days and are different day to day. The first day is called Bhogi Pongal which is celebrated within the family. This first day is celebrated in honour of Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of clouds that give rains. On the second day which is Surya Pongal, the worship of Surya Bhagawan, the sun God, takes place. The third day is Mattu Pongal. On this day, cattle which are sacred in Hinduism are honoured and worshipped. Cattle are revered as traditionally in India they are used to plough the fields which yield bountiful harvests. On this day the cattle are bathed, their horns polished and their bodies painted with bright colours. Multi-coloured beads, tinkling bells, sheafs of corn and flower garlands are tied around their necks. The fourth day of Pongal is referred to a Kaanum Pongal when colouful rice is fed to the crows and birds. The feeding of the birds is usually carried out by sisters for the welfare of their brothers. This practice dates back to the old days when young men were required to go out and work the fields to feed the family.

On the first day of Pongal, Hindu homes start the day with the preparation of pongal (sweet sticky rice) cooked in a new pot. Pongal literally means to boil over and hence the pot of rice is allowed to boil over as a sign of prosperity. Vegetables, sugar cane and spices are offered to the Gods and later consumed by the family to cleanse themselves of their past sins. Pongal rice is also prepared at all the temples and special prayers are conducted on these days.

For four days, Hindu temples throughout Singapore will be ringing with the rhythmic sounds of drums, clarinets and conch shells as Hindus celebrate Pongal festival.


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